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In The Works… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes takes a look at how The Works is using licensing proactively in its stores.

Value is definitely a watchword in retail at the moment and I imagine in lots of consumers’ lives as well. Retailers and consumers are focusing on value for money offers and deals.

Licensing is, of course, not immune to this movement and it is increasingly common to see licensed ranges in value retailers. A trip to The Works confirmed this trend this week and also highlighted how brand owners are focusing attention on this retail sector with an emphasise on providing custom made solutions, exclusive ranges and bespoke products.

I visited The Works in Godalming and found a store that is well presented, but is certainly one that is not hiding its pricing strategy from its customers.

LL5The store has a lot of signage conveying its offers and deals. It also uses FSDUs and other display devices well. A highlight of this was a very prominently positioned Peppa Pig FSDU. This was well designed and represented the brand well. Product wise there was a good mix of lines in the FSDU with plush leading the way.

Allied to the FSDU, Peppa Pig also featured elsewhere in-store with an arts and crafts range focused on Easter. This is a good example of licensors and licensees being more switched onto seasonal opportunities. The crafting range was keenly priced, not least I guess to ensure sell through in the Easter period. I think focused design and theming is to be applauded, but it does come with a risk in terms of stock selling through and requires coordination on the ground. Of course this is where licensees have a vital role to play. A further consideration for IP owners is how, when and where to engage with the value sector. The pricing requirements within the sector will have ramifications for other retail developments and there needs to be an overall retail strategy taken that acknowledges the different tiers of retail. Within this a brand like Peppa Pig that has design flexibility and the ability to fit into a range of categories works well.

As noted earlier, The Works uses signage well in-store to call out offers and in turn integrate licensing into these offers well. For example under a poster proclaiming ‘Big Brands’ there were some Very Hungry Caterpillar products. This shows how licensed brands can help retailers underpin their price propositions and how the retailers recognise the appeal of classic characters.

LL1Another significant range in-store was one that was talked about on LicensingSource.net recently – a range of craft kits, materials and accessories developed ‘exclusively’ for The Works featuring the magazine brand Prima. The range was given substantial space in-store and promoted in the shop windows. It is clearly a big project for The Works and one it has developed carefully. Given The Works’ pedigree in crafting it makes sense for it and Prima to collaborate on this range. Prima brings brand recognition, authority and inspiration. Of course, it also has an archive of content to use in product development and I imagine it also taps into its knowledge of the readership for further insights that will help The Works. For Prima it is a way of engaging with consumers interested in crafting and I guess recruit new readers. It is a focused bit of brand marketing and also helps deliver a new revenue stream.

Magazine publishers have to weigh up licensing deals carefully in regards to the ramifications for other parts of their business such as relationships with advertising partners, but I am guessing in this case the benefits for Prima outweigh any negatives. It gives them great additional retail presence and a real opportunity to engage with crafting fans directly. It was also interesting to see how this deal was delivered in-store – it was very impressive and The Works’ in-store execution was really good. I imagine both sides are really happy with the deal and how it has taken shape in store.

LL3Another brand with a strong presence in-store was Marvel. There were Marvel products in categories such as publishing, toys and crafting. Alongside this there was a lot of classic Disney products, particularly in the book area and notably in colouring books. The Disney reach in retailers such as The Works shows how the portfolio can be very effective within retail and how the stretch within the portfolio opens up options for them. The Marvel characters work across ages as well which, in the context of a retailer like The Works, helps in terms of family friendly products and cross generational appeal particularly in regards to treat and gifting purchases.

One range that stood out was a range of collectable toys featuring the Marvel characters under the Heroes of Goo Jit Zu. I must admit I am not completely familiar with the backstory to this range and styling, but what it did reinforce to me was that Disney/Marvel are embracing different design styles and seem content to see their IP used in ways that reflect new design trends. It is also a good insight that collectability in toys is an ongoing theme and opportunity.

LL4My visit to The Works also suggested that categories such as jigsaw puzzles, card games and board games are still performing well, as The Works gives a lot of space to these categories. There was quite a lot of licensed product mixed in with ‘generic’ products and designs but again the products were keenly priced and promoted as such.

One of the curated areas in The Works is ‘Kids Favourites’ – this was largely made up of classic toys and games such as vehicles, but licensing made an appearance here most notably with PAW Patrol. Again emphasising how a licensed brand can help a retailer like The Works build and enhance an offer.

LL2The Works sells a lot of books across genres, ages and formats. Again value is key here and one approach it takes in this category is to sell box sets of books. The concept of selling multiple books in a slipcase is not a new one – I remember getting book sets as presents in the 1970s (I was reading from a very early age…) but it is one that shouts out value and works well in-store. You are getting a lot of ‘value’ for your £ in this category. A notable example of the format was a box set of Pokémon books. Billed as the Ultimate Collection, the set comprised 14 books and was priced at £20. In this context this seems to be great value for the consumer – I assume the brand owner and publisher are aligned with this and I guess this is a way of tapping into a publishing backlist. Of course, a trade off when operating in the value sector from an IP owner is the volume that might come with a deal.

Retailers like The Works can sell a lot of product and often sell it quickly. They also provide access to an engaged group of consumers looking for value and also deliver a strong high street presence. Increasingly licensors have to make trade offs in their ongoing retail engagement and engaging with the value sector is one of these trade offs. My visit to The Works certainly showed that licensing is a key feature in this category, but also showed how well The Works presents its stores, use licensing proactively and also communicate its offer to customers very clearly.

Ian Downes runs Start Licensing, an independent brand licensing agency. His Twitter handle is @startlicensing – he would welcome your suggestions for what to look out for.

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